Date:  Fri, 11 Apr 1997 20:52:22 -0400 (EDT)
To:  Orthangl@voicenet.com
From: MHatha3156@aol.com
Subject:  Fwd: Re: The Anglican Communion

Dear Friends,
As you know, I recently posed some questions about the Anglican Communion on
Orthangl and Episcopal.  What is it?  How do we remain in it?  How do we
avoid a broken Communion?  The Reverend Louis Tarsitano, St. Andrew's,
Savannah, sent me the following response and has given his kind permission to
forward it on to you.  I hope you find his candor and guidance as refreshing
and inspiring as I did.
In Christ,
Begin Forwarded Post
Forwarded message:
Subj:    Re: The Anglican Communion
Date:    97-04-10 20:37:42 EDT
From:    LTarsitano
To:      MHatha3156
CC:      Fr Kim

Dear Sue,

Pardon my taking a day or two to answer you, but I had a few irons in the
fire, including an article for Mandate on the centralization of the Church
(preview: PECUSA wasn't set up in 1789 to have a "central government.")

Your topics are rather broad, so it may take an exchange or two to get at
what you need for your newsletter. If we work at it, however, and are
patient, we can manage to get what you're looking for.

May I begin by suggesting a book? Michael Ramsey's ( he was the 100th
Archbishop of Canterbury) classic study "The Gospel and the Catholic Church"
is a good way of getting at what "communion" means. If you've already read
it, then you know about 20 times more about the subject than 90% of the
clergy. It's available from Cowley Publications (800-225-1534) for $11.95.
Cowley now publishes a lot of junk, too, but some of their older titles are
well worth having. My publisher would also be annoyed with me if I didn't
mention a little book of my own called "An Outline of an Anglican Life,"
Carillon Books, a division of Ivy Publications, P.O. Box 608, Ivy, VA
22945-0608. My wife may have a few copies lying around, too. It's an overview
of things Anglican that I wrote for inquirers, confirmands, etc. You might
find the notes and bibliography helpful in expanding your study of the

Now that the commercial is over, let's try a few basic definitions. A
"communion" is  "a fellowship,"  "a holding of things in common," or  "a
systematic sharing of life." The biblical word in Greek "koinonia" means all
of these things.

Communion is not automatically a good thing, since we can have communion or
fellowship with the works of darkness. The most important communion of all is
"the Communion of Saints," which we profess to believe in every time we say
the Creed. This communion is in Jesus Christ, and through him with the
Father, and it is accomplished by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. It is our
communion in Christ with the Trinity that allows the Communion of the Saints
to include all of those in heaven and on earth who belong to Christ by grace,
through faith, as expressed by obedience to God's revelation in the Holy

Further, it is by the Incarnation of Christ, his being made man, that earthly
things become holy (the "saints" in the Latin text of the Creed can refer not
only to "holy persons" but also to "holy things." Christ's Incarnation is
meant to restore all of the holiness of God's originally good creation in the
end, overcoming all vestiges of the fall. In the meantime, certain persons
and things are set apart by God's grace to begin this sanctification and as
promises of its completion.

The Holy Scriptures are "God's Word Written"; that is the administration by
grace and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost of God's Word, the Son, the
Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Ordinary words are sanctified (made
holy) for the purpose of ministering to us the revelation of God's identity
and truth. The Sacraments are other examples of this use of earthly things to
administer heavenly gifts. As Anglicans, we do not go beyond the Scriptures
to explain how all of this works, although we can certainly think about it
with gratitude. A thing is what God says it is, and its effect is whatever
God promises.

Sometimes theologians will divide this Scriptural and Creedal communion into
"the Communion of Saints" (the persons) and "Communio in sacris" (communion
in holy things"). These divisions only have value for teaching, but we must
not act as if they were God's divisions. The Communion of the Saints in the
Creed includes all of the persons and all of the things made holy by God's
goodness and purposes.

In a real sense, this is the only communion that matters, since this is the
communion that is our salvation. But this communion may not be turned into a
purely spiritual or mental thing that we each can enjoy individually. Christ
came in the flesh, so communion with him on earth must be physical and
outward, as well as mental and spiritual. Christ came to make us one Body,
his Body: a new, redeemed human race, for which he is the New Adam. We are
saved together, as Christ's Body, or we are damned one at a time. There can
be no private or individualistic Christianity.

For the first 10 centuries of the Church's life, there were no major
divisions. There were simply orthodox Christians and the occasional heretics.
The heretics had no right to claim to be "a different Church." Unfortunately,
after the division between the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054, it
became much easier for heretics to claim that they were a "new kind of
Church." But only Christ can found a Church, and whatever these other things
are, the Church is not it.

Matters became even more complicated in the 16th and 17th centuries, after
many of the various movements to reform the Western Catholic Church failed
and became what we now call "denominations." There is, however, no warrant in
the Scriptures for denominations. These did not really catch hold in a big
way, in fact, until about 150 years ago, at which point denominations began
to try to exercise a great deal of control over their members, through strong
central organizations. The denominations really invented a new theory of
communion, along with themselves and their claimed powers: "institutional
communion," which only means acceptance by the leaders of the denomination as
members in good standing according to their own ever-changing standards.

What the Anglican Churches represent, along with the Church of Rome, and the
Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy is "jurisdictions" within the one, holy,
catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. These jurisdictions, because
they are almost 2000 years old, have their own character and gifts, as well
as their particular weaknesses. These are the "Ways" of Christianity that
continue the "Way" recorded as beginning in the New Testament. Apart from
these Ways, one may be a fine person, one may be saved (this is God's
judgment, not ours); but one is not a member of a completely biblical Church
of Christ's own founding.

A "jurisdiction" is a "spiritual and moral administration" within the Church,
subject to all of the requirements of the Communion of the Saints. If a
particular jurisdiction departs from this standard, it simply ceases to
represent Christ's Church. These jurisdictions include the Christian home (a
communion of husband, wife, and children); the parish (a communion of
households, members, and their clergy); the diocese (a communion of parishes,
clergy, and a bishop); provinces or "national churches" (a communion of
dioceses); and "international communions" (a communion of provinces or
national churches). A "national church," by the way, is not a bureauracracy,
but a communion of Christians living in a particular earthly nation.

As Anglicans, one of our greatest gifts used to be that we were not
voluntarily out of communion with any faithful person or jurisdiction. We
aren't mad at Rome or the Eastern Churches. We do have certain conscientious
disagreements with them, but our Reformation only sought the Biblical freedom
to act on our conscience and the undisturbed right to form that conscience on
the basis of the Scriptures, the Creeds, the General Councils, and the
Fathers of the undivided Church of the first ten centuries. 

Unfortunately, today's Episcopal Church has adopted the vices of a
denomination, and it only means "membership under the authority of General
Convention" when it uses the word "communion" today. Its current standards of
doctrine and practice are not the historic standards of the Christian Church.
As an institution, I would argue that it is already outside of the Communion
of Saints. But remember, ECUSA does not own the spiritual lives of the
smaller jurisdictions within its scope. Households, parishes, and probably
several dioceses remain in commmunion with Christ, the Trinity, and the

It is important to separate the political and secular from the spiritual. It
is a good thing for the faithful, as long as their conscience formed by the
Communion of the Saints requires them to, to work within the political
structure of ECUSA to call ECUSA back into communion with Christ. But the
actions of a General Convention can change nothing of the nature of Biblical
Christianity, and its organization is not essential or required in any way
for Anglican Christians to continue faithful. A General Convention may take
the organization of ECUSA out of communion, but it cannot take the people,
parishes, and dioceses of Christ out of communion. 

I won't go into a long list of Convention actions against communion here. We
can talk about those if you wish, but I've already gone on too long. But
think of communion in this way: we must do and teach and believe and worship
as the Apostles and the Fathers did, or we are not in communion with them;
and if we are not in communion with them, we are not in communion with

A final bit of practical advice. Reform never begins at the top or with the
large institution. It begins with hearts seeking Christ and with families and
parishes. We can always stay in communion with Christ, even if our
circumstances are not what we would choose. Begin with the Bible and the
Prayer Book (I heartily recommend the 1662 or 1928, since it takes an expert
in theology and history to sort out the good from the bad in 1979). Look at
how the Prayer Book organizes an entire Christian life, from cradle to grave,
day by day. Read the daily portions of Psalms. Read Morning and Evening
Prayer. Look at the Ordinal and learn what a deacon, priest, or bishop is
supposed to be. Look at the Offices of Instruction for a basic guide to a
moral life in Christ. Be faithful and humble, and you are in communion. Your
struggle then isn't to save yourself, but to be a means of grace to others
and a champion of full communion for the wider Church.

God bless you,

Lou Tarsitano

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